Top Fundraising Ideas for Churches, Youth Groups and Nonprofits

All charities exist on the generosity of others. An estimated $295 billion dollars was donated to charities in 2006. As a former nonprofit director, I have seen good organizations tremble at the thoughts of raising money. Yet, fundraising is how charities keep running and how small youth groups go on mission trips.

Mention fundraising to a group and you will inevitably hear horror stories of hours spent at a traffic light in the summer heat. Reactions may include nervousness about asking friends for money and the desire for a 'different' type of fundraiser.

A fun or exciting fundraiser is important. The more interesting it is, the more people who want to jump aboard. More people means the organization or group can raise more money.
But what about when your group is small or volunteer hours are limited?

These fundraising ideas are workable for groups of just about any size. The events can be done on a small scale or a large one. How big the event is will be determined by:

1. The amount you need to raise.
2. The size of your organization.
3. Number of volunteers
4. How much time each volunteer can give
5. Venue size and cost

Now that these considerations have been determined it's time to plan your event. The list below gives ideas that can be scaled to fit groups of any size. Which one will you choose?
  • Dinners
  • Car or tractor show
  • Live auction with refreshments
  • Antique appraisal fair
  • Restaurant meal night at a fast food, pizza or local restaurant
  • Crowdfunding
  • All day music event with concession
  • Yard, used book or bake sale
  • cookbook
  • Festival
  • Product or candy sales
  • Family pictures
  • Breakfast with a local celebrity, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny (in season).
  • Teddy bear tea for all ages
  • Fashion show and luncheon
  • Car wash
  • Motorcycle rally
  • Bike ride or 5K Walk
  • Opportunity quilt
  • Golf or fishing tournament
  • Art or photo exhibit and sale
  • Craft fair
  • Traffic light donation campaign
Points to ponder:
Don't decide to hold a tournament, 5K run or put a memories or cookbook together the month before funds are needed. Some events can take months to plan. Only your group can decide whether to hold a large event that takes months to implement or a fairly quick fundraiser. There isn't any right or wrong answer. It's all matter of the five steps mentioned above.

Groups should look into the size and affordability of a venue after determining the fundraising goal. If you only want to raise a few hundred dollars, then a free street corner may be ideal for a bake sale, yard sale or lemonade stand. Raising more money might mean expanding the yard sale and moving it into a nearby parking lot or gum.

Job descriptions need to be written for key volunteers. The descriptions define tasks and make it clearer for everyone to understand what the others are doing. Volunteers should pitch in if asked to help in other areas. The idea is to work as a team to raise the funds that are needed.

Accessibility is important. Does the thought of carrying yard sale boxes up or down steps give you pause? Are you concerned about rolling boxes of books up a steep ramp? If so, then your customers will be too.

Cost is always a concern. Churches, stores and businesses may be willing to work with you. Always have an agreement well in advance of your fundraiser. It may be helpful to spell out the terms in writing and have everyone sign it. This gives you something to refer to later.

A written agreement may or may not be needed by small groups in a small venue. However: it is critical for organizations that are utilizing a large or costly space. When in doubt, write it out.
Insurance is always a concern. If needed, special event insurance can be purchased from most insurance companies. A number of companies sell it online. Always do your due diligence before purchasing insurance.


My return to college ended on a high note

I couldn't have ended my return to college on a high note if it hadn't been for my daughter and a supportive husband. With their help, my cumulative grade is now a 3.6. Homework help included reading text to me while I drove to school, assisting with homework and repeatedly helping me find my classes.

It's been about 25 years since my first college experience. Higher education has undergone substantial changes. Everything from registration to financial aid is computerized. Getting correct answers to administrative questions about things like financial aid can be difficult. However, paying the term bill is easier and the professors are more supportive than ever.

Going back to school is challenging in another way. Receiving a diagnosis of a couple learning disabilities earlier this year paved the way for accommodations. I failed math, but we now have a helpful strategy in place. (My final GPA wasn't effected since the course isn't college level.) It helped substantially that my daughter read chapters out loud to me while on the way to college. Hubby went to campus a few times to help me find the classes. My return to college wouldn't have been successful without their help, assistance with an accommodation plan and some very supportive professors.

My course load for next semester includes the dreaded math course, sociology and ceramics. Hopefully, math will improve. I'm upbeat about the other courses. The main challenge there will be to make it into ceramics by 9:00 am. That means leaving home by 7:30 am.

In the tradition of the younger college students, who needs to sleep anyway? I foresee lots of coffee in my future.


New news about a learning disability or two

Most of you know that I've returned to school after a 25 year absence. My struggles have led me to get some educational testing done. The results have revealed no one, but two learning disabilities. One was made worse by the head injury sustained in 1995. The other was probably caused by it. That this should be discovered after so many years is a very, very bitter pill to swallow.

Flowers on Lewis and Clark Trail
All classes are going well except for math. Algebra has never been my strong point. Many years were spent beating my head against the wall trying to learn the meaning behind PEMDAS. FOIL wasn't so much an acronym as it is something that leftovers are stored in.

My problem with math is much worse than in years past. Letters are getting jumbled up like never before. Columns blend together and the difference between positive and negative are blurring. It took me about an hour and a half to work 15 problems on my math exam last time and I still failed it. Where I struggled before, I now find it nearly impossible. College accommodations may be my only hope of passing.

Everything takes much more time now and things get mixed up easier. We've laughed for years at my ability to get lost in a building or going to work. I've told the kids to put the clothes in the dishwasher on several occassions. That's okay though. They can always put the dishes in the washing machine later.

The most bitter pill to swallow is the reason for the head injury. If you've read my blog, then you know that I was beaten and sexually assaulted in 1995. The educational testing indicates that the head injury is the reason for several of my difficulties today.

I'm putting this in the context of one more thing to add to the list. Foot drop, my back and other health challenges are just as important as dealing with the learning disabilities caused by the head injury. Don't get me wrong. I'm mad as hell over the injury. However, unlike rabidly high blood pressure or a severe asthma attack, the head injury probably won't kill me.

I have a life to live and plan to live it. If college can happen in spite of foot drop, or after my financial aid appeal was denied, then it can happen despite a learning disability or two. Math and a few other things may be more of a challenge now. The diagnosis only clarify what we already suspected. They don't change who I am and I'm trying not to let it hurt my outlook for the short term.

I feel that if my foot could relearn how to walk last year, then one year, I may learn to fly. You never know what the future holds. Learning disabilities, health challenges or not, faith is for believing and life is for living. Why do anything else?